12/06/2002 1:00AM

On third try Weaver wins his maiden


MIAMI - George Weaver spent 11 years as assistant to trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher. And with that background, it's no wonder it took Weaver only three tries after striking out on his own to saddle his first winner, First Spear, in Thursday's fifth race at Calder.

"It's always good to get the first one out of the way," said Weaver. "It takes a lot of pressure off."

Weaver worked for Lukas from June 1991 until joining Pletcher, also a former Lukas assistant, during the spring of 1997. It was a working relationship that lasted until Labor Day weekend when Weaver left to begin his own career as a trainer.

"Todd was basically my boss when I was with Wayne," said the 31-year-old Weaver. "When he began to expand his own operation several years later he asked me to join on, and I saw it as a great opportunity."

Weaver not only learned the ropes during his five-year tenure with Pletcher but also he met his wife, the former Cindy Hutter, while working for Pletcher. The couple celebrated the birth of their first child, Ben, two months ago.

"Even though Cindy and I both worked for Todd, we didn't get to spend much of the year together," said Weaver. "Once I realized last year I was going to be a father, we made the decision it was time for me to go out on my own."

Weaver has 15 horses bedded down at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla. Among his new clients are John Fort's Peachtree Stable, the owner of First Spear, and Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable.

"Todd was instrumental in helping me pick up some owners to get started," said Weaver. "I'm very grateful for his help and the support of those people who have given me horses."

Prado closes out excellent year

Jockey Edgar Prado made a cameo appearance here this past week, though for the most part his banner 2002 year has ended.

"I'll be in Texas on Saturday for the Great State Challenge, back at Calder on Sunday, and then I fly to Hong Kong to ride the following weekend," said Prado. "When I return I'm going on vacation for about 10 days. I'll probably come back for the last couple of days of the Calder meet before heading into Gulfstream."

Prado is ranked second behind Jerry Bailey in money won in 2002, with purses totaling nearly $18 million, and is tied for fourth in races won (288). His accomplishments this year also include winning his first Saratoga riding title.

Windsor Castle targets Donn

Trainer Frank Alexander said Windsor Castle came out of his sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile none the worse for wear and will now be pointed for a winter campaign in Florida, where his main goal will be Gulfstream's Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 22.

"I thought his race in the Cigar Mile was pretty good considering the way that track [Aqueduct] has been playing," said Alexander. "Unless you're one-two-three, forget about it. You couldn't be more than two lengths out of it that day, although

I really don't like to change a horse's style just because of the track. In addition, a one-turn mile isn't his best game. He's a better two-turn horse."

Alexander is considering running Windsor Castle once more this year, in Calder's Grade 3 Fred Hooper Handicap on Dec. 28.

"The Donn will be our main goal, but the Hooper could be a possibility," he said.

Alexander also said he is considering vanning his top 3-year-old filly, Nonsuch Bay, across town to try her on the turf in Calder's Frances A. Genter Stakes on Dec. 21.

Nonsuch Bay scored her most notable victory last spring in the Grade 1 Mother Goose.

"I've been taking it easy with her but I'll start cranking her up this week and see where she is," said Alexander. "She's never raced on the grass but she's worked well over turf and the distance of that race, 7 1/2 furlongs, is very appealing."

Cool stuff at charity auction

Calder Race Course will hold a silent auction of racing memorabilia to benefit the Shoemaker Foundation and Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund in conjunction with Laffit Pincay Jr. Day on Dec. 21.

Among the items being auctioned off are a set of racing silks belonging to the late owner-breeder Fred W. Hooper, signed by Pincay; jockey boots and goggles autographed by Pincay; two of the horseshoes worn by 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given during his victory in the 2001 Haskell Invitational; a winning mutuel ticket from Triple Crown winner Secretariat's 1973 Peakness Stakes along with a photo of him mounted and framed; a Bill Shoemaker poster by the late artist Andy Warhol; and a wooden Spalding putter that belonged to five-time Kentucky Derby winning rider and avid golfer Eddie Arcaro.